This article is from the May 1999 The Mexico File newsletter.
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Thoughts on a New Year’s Eve

by Karen Kressin

Karen Kressin, from Kansas, contributed an article on “Taking Kids to Mexico” in the May and June 1998 issues of The Mexico File. She and her family are planning a trip to Guadalajara this summer.

It's about one o'clock in the afternoon on December 31, and I am sitting in a supermarket in Kansas with my healthy and well-fed young daughter. We are eating pizza sold by the slice and Caesar salad sold by the ounce. The eating area is near the fresh pastry section of the store. While we eat, I notice a slight, dark-haired man wearing tan longsleeved laborer's coveralls and heavy boots. The boots and coveralls are smudged with earth. He sets a gallon of milk down on the floor in front of the glass doors of the display shelves and fills two small boxes with donuts and sweet rolls. As he turns to pass me on his way to the checkout, I notice that his features are mestizo. This is a worker, probably without documents, let off at noon for the holiday, picking up a little merienda for the evening and a little reminder of family life he certainly misses most on holidays.

Señor, one year ago today, my family and I were enjoying comida corrida at an open-air restaurant in Guanajuato. Maybe you are from Guanajuato? These days I have been remembering each day of that two-week visit to your country. But your family in Mexico would not be able to afford restaurant meals like we ate in Guanajuato. And you are not there with them; you are here, in the shadows, hiding from the law, working hard and accumulating money to send home. Much of the money you send is lost in currency exchange, transfer fees, and sheer thievery. You never know when you will be arrested and sent back to Mexico. If an employer cheats you out of your wages or subjects you to dangerous working conditions, you have no recourse in our law; no one will help you. You can't open a bank account, so you carry your money in cash, in your pockets. As hard as you try each day to stay out of trouble and keep working here, I see that you are tugged in the other direction too. Your heart is in Mexico with your family, isn't it? You are far from home, cold, tired, dusty, and lonely. It's New Year's Eve and tonight you will have a bit of pan dulce and milk, just like the children in your family so far away in Mexico.

Que le vaya bien, señor. Que le vaya bien . . .

© 1999 Karen Kressin